At this time last year, I was packing up everything I owned and deciding what could fit into my car to drive up to New York with me. I’d been offered the job and said an enthusiastic YES, even though it meant moving on my own to a city I’d only ever visited twice, far from everyone I knew. I found a room to rent on Craigslist with two guys I’d never met, but the one I talked to on the phone didn’t seem like a axe murderer (spoiler: no murder), and so the plan was set.
I stuffed my little car as full as possible, wedging clothing into any nook or cranny between boxes. And most importantly, my companions were along for the ride – my cat, Catherine, and my chihuahua, PJ. They’ve been my furry support system over the past year. On days when I’ve missed home something furious, they’re there to snuggle up and make me feel like this, too, can be home.
The night before I left, my friends saw me off at the Hotel Tango, and it was a wonderful send-off. Friends from all the various parts of my life came out to toast my new adventure, from work, my book club, roller derby, my writing group, my gardening group, and life in general. Looking around at all of them, it seemed bananas to be leaving them all behind and heading off on my own to a place I barely knew. But I was ready for a new adventure.
As fate goes, there was a huge snowfall the day I drove up. It took twelve hours, and my poor little car struggled up the slippery hills as I got close to the house, as unused as I was to the new topography. We’re not in Indy anymore, I told the furkids.
This year has been a roller coaster, on my own in a new place, with a new job, searching for my community here. I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect, and read a lot of books and watch Netflix. But it’s been a banner year for my writing, as well as my work, and looking back on it, I wanted to share my highlights:
This year I had three short stories published, ones I was truly proud of, in publications read by more than just my super supportive friends and family.
- The first one to come out was “First the Rapture, then the Paperwork,” in the Bikes Not Rockets anthology. For some reason I love writing stories that have a lot of specific requirements. I think it’s fun to take the parameters given – in this case a feminist sci-fi story that included a bicycle – and scramble them up and add them to my brain to see what comes out. Here what came out was a story of a woman who has found her life’s calling in an office – in Heaven.
- The second story was one I wrote without any purpose in mind, but the concept stuck with me. I sent it out to a couple of places, and I danced around the house when it got picked up by Pulp Literature magazine. That story is “Indebted” and it takes place in a near future where our constant state of being in debt has consequences that aren’t so unlikely at all.
- My third story is a short one that I wrote specifically for So It Goes, the literary journal published annually by the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. It’s called “The Broken Hearts Garden Club” and, well, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Also this year, I had the opportunity to see a short play I wrote on stage. Last year I took a playwriting class through the Indiana Writers Center, and the instructor reached out about including the short play called “Root Vegetables” I’d written for it in a short play festival he was organizing. During the class he had brought in actors to read our work, and I was amazed at what they could do with even works in progress. I knew that seeing them bring it to life on stage would be even better. Being so far away, I wasn’t able to be a part of the rehearsals, so I drove down from Indiana in May to see the show, full of anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed. The actors and their director took the words I’d written on the page and gave them depth and emotion. So many of my friends and family came out to see it and support me, and I’m not crying, you’re crying. I’m definitely hooked now on writing plays and I want to write more sometime soon.
Part of my new job is booking bands to come play our concert series, a mix of local and touring bands. When I got the job and started inviting bands to perform, I knew I had to get Maggie Koerner to come. I’d seen her once before, by complete chance, back in Indianapolis. I’d won free tickets to see a band at the Hi-Fi, one I wasn’t really familiar with, but it was a free night out. My girlfriend at the time went with me, and when Maggie came out to open the show, we were frozen into place. Her voice was incredible, and we watched her, mouths hanging open, exchanging glances with each other to confirm that yes, this really is amazing. She was so impressive that we left right after her set, the headliners long forgotten.
It stuck with me, and so when I had the ability to bring musicians to town, I threw a hail mary and reached out to her people. And somehow, she said yes. I bounced around that whole day as we set up for the show, knowing what people were about to see. It was just as memorable as I’d hoped. She and the band started the set off slow, and then she opened her mouth and sang with that voice that I remembered so well. I watched the audience have that same reaction I’d had. That realization that something incredible is happening right in front of you that you fully did not expect. The audience was hushed, not wanting to miss a note, right in the middle of our downtown, where usually you can hear the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. People heard her voice from blocks away and just started walking toward it. When the show was over, the line to meet her and buy her merch stretched out forever. I met a man who told me that he and his wife were on their way to take their daughter to college in Canada, and they’d specifically detoured to our city to see the show. And people couldn’t stop telling me how wonderful it was.
There have been a number of other highlights, too many to mention, really. I ran the Seneca 7 relay race with the incredible vegan runners of Strong Hearts Vegan Power, visited the Tamerlaine Farm animal sanctuary, saw incredible local bands and plays, organized an Office Space-style smashing of old printers, ran more events than I can even remember, saw waterfalls and went on beautiful hikes, met interesting new people, told a story in public in front of an audience and didn’t die or pass out, and ate way too much food at the great local restaurants.
2018 has been an adventure of a year. It’s been scary and exciting, fun and lonely, full of possibility, and a massive growing experience. What’s kept me sane during the times I’ve thought “what the hell was I thinking?” was my friends and family back home always being there to lend me support when I’ve needed it. You’ve called me when you could sense I was having a hard day, texted me silly things, sent me cards, and mailed me Skittles for event week. I’ve even had a couple visitors, and I love playing tour guide. Even a 12 hour drive away, you’ve all got my back, and I love you for it.
I’m excited for 2019. I have some projects in the works. Year 2 in my new city is going to wonderful, especially because I no longer need GPS to get to Wegmans. I’ve met some interesting people, gone to a lot of quirky-fun local events, and I know that’s only going to continue. And I know that whatever happens, I’ve got good people always in my corner.